The Cure for Depression: Eat Healthy

Good morning/afternoon/evening/midnight/snacktime everyone! I am ready to very professionally talk to you about one of my favorite subjects: food.

Fruit smoothies in glasses topped with pieces of fruit and marigold flowers

I just spent ten luxurious minutes searching for food pictures, and now I’m hungry. There are so many pictures of food! WHY are there so many?

Duh. Food is life.

That, and it’s delicious. During one of my no-sugar diets, I sagely told a friend, “I’ve decided the problem with chocolate is that it tastes good.” I hope I come up with better quotes when I’m not dieting.

So…. why bother monitoring what we stuff in our faces? This is one of those answers that we all know, like how we ought to be getting outside more, or exercising. We know that eating well is better for our health.

Anyone with food issues like me also knows that an entire bag of Snicker’s ‘fun’ size is really appealing at depressive moments. As appetizing as a picture of odd fruits with flowers (why flowers?) is, I’m apt to choose something meatier and fattier and baddier.

Oooh yeah. People don’t believe me when I tell them I like meat and have issues in general, because I periodically diet and usually exercise. And if random good behavior keeps me looking passable, then you have my personal assurances that such a plan will work for you.

First, let’s list why eating well is such a great idea:

  1. Vitamins, minerals, nutrients, madeupwordients are ESSENTIAL for complex creatures such as us. They’re our fuel.
  2. Eating the right things really helps to not get sick often.
  3. A balanced diet definitely helps with mental illness. Seriously, Google found me so much proof -like on a Harvard Health blog.

Hmmm… I probably should have put #3 first. I blame not eating breakfast yet.

“Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood” (Harvard Health Blog).

Oops. I’m just gonna hide this bag of …Snicker’s. *crinkle* *crinkle* Hey, look at this beautiful picture of a salad!

Right-o. We know that good food is good. Most of us know that, from our childhood years of basic nutrition education. If not -hey! I taught you something new!

The tricky part is application. Take one little tiny baby step with me here:

You don’t have to starve yourself and only eat rabbit food.

In fact, if weight loss alone is your goal, you can eat only McDonald’s and still shed pounds. McDonald’s, even the salad, is NOT healthy; just so’s you know. Processed foods tend to not be. And, you have to put up with only Mickey D’s for six months which would be hell for me.

I likes my variety, and you can too!

Rambling point: Small Step #1 is to eat less* overall. You can feed your OCD tendencies if you have them and write down how many calories if you wish. Use a website or app to estimate what your daily calorie burn is, then eat less of that each day. Eat a little less; we’re not encouraging any anorexia here.

*Eating less than what you burn leads to weight loss. Ignore this advice if you are already at a good weight. In that case, eat close to what you burn in order to maintain.

Small Step 2 is when you eat. Your body will burn calories or hang onto them differently at different times of day and different times of year. Generally, avoid eating after 8:00 p.m. and/or two hours before sleeping. Eating later not only helps the food stick around, it makes you less comfortable and more depressed.

On the same page, make sure you are stuffing your face at regular mealtimes. I also need to eat between meals, like a hobbit. I keep the calorie count low (see Step 1), but don’t starve.

Step 3 is what you eat. If you consider lettuce a food fit for hopping creatures, that’s totally cool. I especially understand if you only ever eat iceberg lettuce; that crap is just water. Get yourself the more green and leafy varieties like Romaine, wrap your protein in it, and salt and pepper the thing.

Everyone has some foods he/she likes that he/she knows are healthy. If not, buy some of your friend’s favorites and sneakily eat them in your closet. I won’t tell. At the end of such an experiment, you will have a few that you can stomach.

Use the old internet for searches like “low-calorie recipes,” “healthy snacks,” and “edible and appetizing ways to prepare kale.” -Okay, that last one was a joke.

I recommend AGAINST anal counting of minerals and vitamins and whatnot because it’s a very tricky process that is probably not entirely accurate. Fresh foods have a different value than ones that have been canned, dried, frozen, or covered in chocolate to actually make them taste good.

The advice I follow myself is to lower sugars and white flours and rices, keep the calories low, and include a treat in that count. If you’re following my earlier advice to exercise, you’ll need the extra calories.

A good Step 4 is to cut out stimulants and booze. Ya know, like coffee and alcohol. I think this is a great step, but I don’t touch the stuff myself and therefore wouldn’t presume to lecture you on how to do so. There are plenty of internet and local areas to help, however. (Like, the addiction national helpline, if it’s that serious: 1-800-662-HELP [4357].)

You’re probably thinking I’m crazy, but I thought the same thing when my paid friend told me she hadn’t consumed sugar since 2003. She still has valid ideas in many other categories, so I’ll probably keep seeing her.

As a final note, I don’t even have to be an expert to mention a vital consumable related to eating well: drinking well. As a human, you need water.

Water is life, more so than food even.

I live in a desert environment, and even I skimp on the “recommended amount.” That’s because I don’t like using the bathroom all day. I’ve been told that regular, consistent drinking of water should make that problem disappear.

Wherever you live, make sure you drink water. It improves skin, helps organ function, helps singers sound better, and keeps you from dying.

So, class, let’s get started today. Keep your diet tasty, consistent, and manageable. Drink your water. These simple steps will help you be better able to fight those depressive tendencies.

This has been a part of our Cure for Depression series. Tune in next time, and we’ll talk about joy.

 

Photo Credits:
Brooke Lark
Haseeb Jamil
Vitchakorn Koonyosying
Lacey Williams
Yasuo Takeuchi

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

18 thoughts on “The Cure for Depression: Eat Healthy

  1. I haven’t had any sugar for the last five months except for what might be in bread or something incidental like saltine crackers or something. I think I’m allergic to artificial sweeteners so I don’t ever have any of those. I try and follow a whole food plant based (WFPB) diet but I’m not perfect at it yet. The key is balance and to make sure you eat enough of a bunch of different foods every day – including beans, legumes and grains and some protein. But I don’t think it’s done a thing for me for depression or anxiety. In fact, and this sounds stupid, but I wonder if it hasn’t made me more depressed because I miss things like pizza and donuts and cookies and chocolate fudge and Reese’s Fast Break candy bars and bathing in mayonnaise and butter and . . .Happy day to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 😀 That entire story would make for a good blog post. “I eat really healthily, and it’s bad for my health.” 😀

      Is there a reason you’re not doing any sugar at all? I think occasional treats can be just fine.

      Liked by 1 person

      • When I say I haven’t had any sugar I mean added sugar. I eat a lot of fruit and that has sugar and the same with certain veggies, I eat a lot of those with sugar. But stuff with added sugar (candy, baked goods, pop, certain breakfast cereals) and high fructose corn syrup is what I avoid. The empty calories are one reason, but foods high in added sugar, I’ve noticed they make me more hyper and they make my heart beat faster and when that happens it makes me anxious which makes my heart beat faster and when that happens then my thought start to spiral out of control which makes everything worse.

        Liked by 1 person

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